The Lying Game, Revisited

by , November 23, 2004

We live in a recurring nightmare. That’s the only conclusion one can draw from today’s headlines, which, as we draw closer to a confrontation with Iran, bear an eerie resemblance to yesterday’s breaking news. It seems like only yesterday that a Middle Eastern exile group – the Iraqi National Congress (INC) – was feeding the U.S. government “intelligence” that drew a fearsome portrait of Saddam Hussein’s supposedly burgeoning nuclear arsenal. The Iraqi dictator was said to be plotting with Al Qaeda to knock off a few more American skyscrapers, and, at one point, George W. Bush even conjured visions of Iraqi drones flying over our airspace and raining death and destruction on American cities.

While readers of Antiwar.com discovered early on it was all a lie, a good deal of the rest of the world was led down the primrose path and only stumbled over the truth after they had reached the very end.

But is it the end – or is the path just branching out in another direction?

The startling announcement by lame-duck Secretary of State Colin Powell that Iran – contrary to its public declarations, and the spirit if not the letter of Tehran’s recent preliminary agreement with the EU to temporarily halt the uranium enrichment process – is working on a nuclear missile delivery system has Washington in a frenzy of speculation, and, yes, shock. The latter is over Powell’s extraordinary willingness to reveal information that was reportedly unvetted, and from a single source, and repeat it as fact.

The provenance of this bit of “intelligence” ought to evoke, in the careful reader, a sense of déjà vu. Here is the Washington Post on the mysterious circumstances of its arrival on Powell’s desk:

“According to one official with access to the material, a ‘walk-in’ source approached U.S intelligence earlier this month with more than 1,000 pages purported to be Iranian drawings and technical documents, including a nuclear warhead design and modifications to enable Iranian ballistic missiles to deliver an atomic strike.”

This is reminiscent of nothing so much as the infamous Niger uranium forgeries, which, you’ll remember, were accepted as fact by the Bush White House until they were exposed as fraudulent by International Atomic Energy Agency scientists, after a few hours with Google.

I wonder if the U.S. government would be interested in what a “walk-in” has to say about the overwhelming lack of evidence that Iran is building or intends to build nuclear weapons – and how long it would take for 1000-plus pages of debunking to percolate up to the office of the secretary of state. In all likelihood, the debunker probably wouldn’t get past the front door, let alone be lent credence by top officials.

Porter Goss has put a memo out to all of our spooks deploring leaks and warning Company employees to stop haunting this administration with doubts about American policy in the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter. In a matter of hours the memo was on the internet (hat tip to Laura Rozen):

“We are a secret Agency. Of necessity, we must assiduously follow the law to honor the trust placed upon us. We have rules to govern our conduct of business and rules designed to facilitate our mission’s success and to build public confidence. Since 9/11 everything has changed. The IC and its people have been relentlessly scrutinized and criticized. Intelligence related issues have become the fodder of partisan food fights and turf-power skirmishes. …

“… I also intend to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road. We support the Administration and its policies in our work. As Agency employees we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the Administration or its policies. We provide the intelligence as we see it – and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.” [Emphasis in original]

A word to the wise: just tell us what we want to hear. Under these circumstances, perhaps as part of the re-organization and “reform” of our intelligence capabilities, we ought to re-name the CIA. How about the Central Propaganda Agency? Or, better yet, the Ministry of Truth….

A three-pronged propaganda campaign is now underway to justify a preemptive military strike – either by the U.S., or Israel – against Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons facilities. It just so happened that, on the very day Powell blurted out his accusation against Iran, a Paris-based Iranian exile group, the “National Council of Resistance,” held a widely-publicized press conference stating that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium – and claiming that, sometime in the mid-1990s, Tehran acquired a bomb blueprint from Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. As the Los Angeles Times points out, “many of the group’s previous statements have been inaccurate, though it did reveal the existence of a secret Iranian nuclear facility in 2002.”

But what they don’t tell you about the “National Council of Resistance,” except for alluding to its dubious record of intelligence-gathering, is that it is a front for one of the all-time weirdest cults in existence, which embraces a bizarre combination of neo-Maoist Marxist-Leninism and neo-conservative foreign policy prescriptions.

During the Iranian revolution that overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), launched terrorist attacks on American targets, but soon fell out of favor with the Khomeni regime. In the war between Iraq and Iran, they sided with Saddam Hussein and were granted sanctuary on Iraqi soil, where they set up camps and conducted terrorist attacks on Iranian civilian and military targets. After the U.S. invasion, they were supposedly interned as a group at Camp Ashraf, their major base: after all, it was they, alongside the Ba’athist Republican Guards, who put down the Shi’ite and Kurd uprisings of 1991 that resulted in a prolonged slaughter and a Shi’ite exodus to Iran. Their present status, however, is in doubt, and there are reports that MEK cadre are running around loose.

The cultish accoutrements of the MEK organization bear some resemblance to that of the Moonies, with a Mother-Father duopoly as the maximum leaders, and a slavishly obedient and tightly-regulated rank-and-file. In the case of the MEK, there is the added fillip of the Amazonian angle: the group’s commitment to what can only be called macho feminism gives it a distinctive style: a good proportion of the MEK’s fighters are women, as are half of the top commanders. The adoration of the Rajavis – “President ElectMaryam Rajavi, and Military “Leader of the ResistanceMassoud Rajavi – is almost religious in tone, providing an odd counterpoint to the militant secularism and feminism that its Western supporters find so attractive.

Speaking of the MEK’s Western supporters, there was a “briefing” given on Capitol Hill the other day, in which Kenneth Pollack and David Albright lectured U.S. lawmakers on the alleged necessity of either proving or disproving the MEK’s allegations by forcing Pakistan to allow the interrogation of the notorious A. Q. Khan, accused of running a lucrative black market in nukes and a key figure in the MEK’s meta-fictional narrative detailing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

This, by the way, is the same Kenneth Pollack whose book, the tendentiously-titled The Threatening Storm is credited with producing a bumper crop of pro-war liberals – the very same Pollack who assured us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that we had no choice but to go in before the storm broke. This ought to give a whole new meaning to the telling of Pollack jokes.

Albright, physicist and former arms inspector, is described in the above-linked report as now heading up “a Washington-based anti-nuclear group.” This “anti-nuclear group” is the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which early on championed the lies of Iraqi “defectors” such as Dr. Khidhir Hamza – another “walk-in” – who presented U.S. intelligence agencies with phony evidence of Saddam’s “secret” nuclear program. As Gordon Prather pointed out recently, this administration barreled ahead on the presumption that Iraqi WMD existed, in spite of the testimony of Gen. Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law, who maintained (correctly, as it turned out) that he had personally ordered all WMD destroyed:

Perversely, some analysts within the intelligence community chose to disbelieve Kamel and the U.N. inspectors. They chose to believe Khidir Hamza – the man Kamel had labeled a ‘professional liar’ – and other ‘little birds’ They began compiling a list of sites wherein Saddam was alleged to have hidden chem-bio weapons or to have begun reconstructing WMD production facilities.”

When UN inspectors visited those sites, before the invasion, and found no evidence of any such facilities, Hamza denounced them as “incompetent.” We would have to invade Iraq, and then we would find the WMD – that, we were told by Hamza and his supporters, including the “anti-nuclear” ISIS, was the only way.

Before we take Albright and Pollack as seriously as we would a third-rate comedy act, they ought to be reminded of their own record. Never mind Iranian nukes – where are the nukes and other WMD they solemnly promised we’d see in Iraq?

In addition to Powell’s outburst, and the MEK’s fulminations, the third element in the hate campaign directed at Iran is that, although Tehran and the EU signed an agreement temporarily freezing the enrichment process, the Iranians stepped up the procedure over the weekend because the agreement doesn’t take effect until the 22nd. There is, of course, no way to check such an accusation: the source given by media outlets from NPR to The Australian is merely that this is being whispered in certain “diplomatic circles.” I would bet the farm on which circles, precisely, but let each reader draw his or her own conclusions on that score.

Israel has long been demanding that the United States deal with an alleged military threat from Iran, which is supposed to be secretly subsidizing the Iraqi insurgency. On a trip to Israel before the invasion, U.S. arms official John Bolton is said to have promised Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (scroll down) that the U.S. would take on Syria and Iran right after Saddam was disposed of, and this scenario seems to be playing out rather quickly. Israel is the only threatened party if the Iranians get nukes, as the Washington Post report on the Powell leak brouhaha implied:

“The information provided by the source, who was not previously known to U.S. intelligence, does not mention uranium or any other area of Iran’s known nuclear program, according to the official with access to the material. It focuses instead on a warhead design and modifications to Iran’s long-range Shahab-3 missile and a medium-range missile in its arsenal. The Shahab-3 has a range of 800 miles and is capable of hitting Israel.”

Once again, it’s all about Israel. Those Shahab missiles aren’t aimed at Brooklyn, or Des Moines, or even at U.S. troops in Iraq: their target is Tel Aviv, not Toledo. That is why we have to go through Act II of the Lying Game, a repeat performance – except, perhaps, on an even grander scale – of the same bold and brassy tactics that succeeded so well the last time around. Certainly the War Party, if it pulls off the Iranian “regime change” caper, will have to rise to new heights of brazen prevarication – their audacity and skill as liars will be sorely tested. So far, however, they’re doing a bang-up job of it. I’m sure they’ll rise to the occasion.

In any case, I’m wondering how long it will be before we hear that this is a case of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” – and that, this time, they really really are telling the truth, and wouldn’t it be tragic if we didn’t listen in time….

The democratic “transformation” of the Middle East is a project undertaken on behalf of our favorite client state: the conflict in Iraq, and the one to come in Iran, are really all about making for a safer, securer Israel. Whether matters have quite turned out that way is a matter for debate, and another column, but what is unmistakable is that the region is less safe for everybody else. While Israel infiltrates Kurdistan and the Iranians extend their influence into southern Iraq, the redivision of the Middle East proceeds apace, with Syria and Lebanon, as well as Iran, next in the War Party’s sights. With practically every Arab and Muslim state in the region under attack, and in danger of breaking apart, the real goal of U.S. policy in the region will have been achieved: this will leave Israel standing tall – or, at least, taller by comparison – amid the ruins. Then and only then will George W. Bush have the right to proclaim: “Mission accomplished.” That, at least, is the view of the neocons, who are banking on the election results as a mandate for what they call “World War IV.”

The 1300-plus Americans killed in Iraq, and tens of thousands horribly wounded, are all human sacrifices on the altar of our holy and most sacred alliance, which subordinates American interests to Israeli ambitions in the Middle East. More will be slaughtered in Iran, if it comes to that.

With 631,660 square miles, a population of some 69,000,000, and a long and storied history as the seat of multiple empires and ancient civilizations, it is going to require an awful lot more pacifying than we are failing to provide next door in Iraq. Before we go down that all too familiar road to war, let us pose the question urgently – what for? Who benefits? Who is crying the loudest for confrontation? And then give the War Party the answer they’ve earned: Never again! Or, as George W. Bush once put it:

“Fool me once….”

Read more by Justin Raimondo